Monday, 25 January 2016

Attention: Terrapin! Invasive pond slider on the move

Date:January 22, 2016
Source:Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum

Using genetic methods, scientists of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Dresden discovered that the introduced pond slider is capable of reproducing in Europe even outside of the Mediterranean region. The turtle, originally from North America, poses a significant threat to the native turtle fauna and, according to the authors of the study recently published in the scientific journal "Conservation Genetics," should be intercepted in Europe.

The pond slider (Trachemys scripta) is the world's most widely distributed species beyond its native range. These turtles with a shell length of up to 30 centimeters are native to the Southeastern U.S. - but today, they are found on all continents, except for Antarctica and a few oceanic islands. "The turtle can be found in the wild in practically all European countries." explains Dr. Melita Vamberger of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden, and she continues, "These reptiles owe their wide-spread distribution to the captive animal trade."

The species is considered a threat to native turtles, since it is in direct competition with them regarding food as well as nesting and basking sites. Moreover, the introduced reptiles are potential carriers of parasites and other pathogens. Since the 1990s, the import of these popular pets with their vividly orange to red head stripes has been outlawed in Europe. "However, in some countries, in particular in the Balkan states, the illegal trade continues to flourish," adds Vamberger, and she goes on to say, "But for a long time, it was not clear whether the species could become invasive in Europe." Until now, the successful reproduction and establishment of these animals had only been documented in the Mediterranean region.

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